The Most Engaged Facebook Sites of January 2017

March 6, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

We rank the most engaged sites on Facebook in January 2017, and record significant engagement boosts for many top sites. 

With a new US President, January 2017 was a big month for newsrooms. And it’s clear that it wasn’t just journalists paying attention: audiences on Facebook also weighed in in large numbers, our latest publisher rankings show.

Here were some of the most notable points for the month:

  • NBC is the most engaged publisher of January 2017, the first time the network has taken top spot.
  • News publishers see a strong boost with their content, as the inauguration and other major news events make their mark in news feeds.
  • Opinion and political news stories saw a lot of engagement in January, with the Presidential inauguration and Women’s Marches making lots of news.

Below we have the top 25 sites of the month on the platform, with their engagement breakdowns. Here are the top ten sites for January, with data via NewsWhip Analytics:

There are plenty of sites making gains since we last published a ranking in December 2016. In January, no site within our top 25 sites on Facebook had less than 10 million engagements on their stories for the month.

It’s also possibly the closest month we’ve had for a clean positive engagement sweep for the top 25 sites – only one of the top 25 saw their engagement dip from December to January, and only marginally.

The biggest news is NBC in first place, with over 31 million total engagements for the month. NBC has been a constant presence in the top Facebook rankings on our blog, but this is notably the first time the network has managed to take the ‘most engaged Facebook publisher’ title.

As we’ll detail below, it was a bit of a bumper month for news publishers, so this is all the more impressive in what was a crowded field.

So, how did NBC make it out on top?

It’s worth remembering here that these numbers for NBC, Fox and all other networked publishers include their social engagements for all their affiliate sites. In the case of NBC, this includes major national sites like and, as well as its local news sites.

This does give NBC some advantage, and it’s a factor that seems to work particularly well in localising its coverage. Local NBC affiliates were able to cover their local marches and inauguration reactions in detail, and distribute them to localised audiences on social media. Some of these regional angle stories ended up being among the most popular of the month for NBC overall.

For example, the sixth most popular story from the NBC network in January was about a family of Syrians from Philadelphia who had voted for Donald Trump. The story came from NBC Philadelphia, and was largely highlighted and distributed by its page. 

Similarly, ‘Women’s March on Chicago Among Largest Outside DC‘ was another big hit for NBC Chicago.
Ultimately however, the scale of the NBC network’s coverage means that NBC has enormous visibility to users in locations across the US and wider world, giving them an enviable presence in news feeds.

In second place, the Huffington Post saw a strong bounce on December’s numbers. Its most popular stories list was a curious mix of political opinion stories with coverage of viral video clips and political stories, with their opinion pieces performing particularly strongly.

CNN and Fox News also saw significant engagement gains of around 5 million for the month.

Further down, the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today all put in strong performances to increase their total engagements for the month. In January, USA Today passed the 10 million subscriber mark to its main Facebook page, joining an elite group of US news publishers with the same fan count.

Looking closer at the stories that made up the bulk of engagements for these sites, there’s just one theme that dominated all round for each site. Take a look at the top five most shared stories on Facebook for the New York Times in January:

It’s clear that the recent US news cycle has elevated interest in news on Facebook to a new peak. We’ve seen these sites really make the most of their news coverage on social media in the last few weeks.

And it’s not just the news stories, such as coverage of the presidential inauguration, or the Women’s March. Opinion stories are also driving huge levels of engagement for certain news sites. In a separate analysis, we saw that Facebook engagements on New York Times’ opinion articles drove almost 30% of their total in December, and it certainly looks as though the number sustained itself into 2017.

What publishers that have benefitted from this surge in engagement will now be asking is how they can capitalise to try and make sure that the audience attention that they’ve attracted sticks around. It’s not just engagement, video views and clicks that are up for grabs here: for subscription-based sites, this lift in interest in news on social media gives and opportunity to attract new readers.

Making sure that the stories stay visible in the news feed is the main challenge here.

And there may be some algorithmic help at hand in the news feed itself. At the very end of January, Facebook announced a new update to the news feed, saying that ‘new signals’ would be used to show users ‘more authentic and timely stories’. For news-focussed sites looking to increase their engagement, this should be good news.

Closer competition amongst top publishers

As we noted in our recent Three Years of Social Data report, there’s more competition amongst top Facebook publishers than ever before.

These latest rankings confirm the trend. For many of the sites in the top 25, there’s only a hair’s breadth separating them from the competition. Less than 3 million engagements separate and the Daily Mail in fourth and ninth positions on the list.

While the rate of engagement with these sites is increasing, it’s also making positions within the table less stable. While most sites increased their engagement totals in January, many actually went backwards in the rankings, after being leapfrogged by faster-moving competitors.

One significant winner in January 2017 was BuzzFeed, increasing its web-based engagements by 6 million for the month, to take tenth spot overall. While BuzzFeed’s entertainment and general interest posts still make up the bulk of its most engaged Facebook stories list each month, its ‘explosive but unverified’ news report on allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia was one of BuzzFeed’s biggest stories of the month on Facebook.

Further down the top 25 chart, one significant re-entry is US political news site The Hill, with almost 15.5 million engagements for the month. Another notable entry was the partisan political publisher Occupy Democrats, which also featured in our December rankings, but made strong gains to attract over 11.8 million engagements for the month. The site had an average Facebook engagement rate per article of 36,267, the highest on the list bar viral-focused site Shareably, which finished in 25th overall in January with an average engagement rate of over 44,000 per article.

The top 25 sites, with full data

Below are the top 25 sites in January, ranked by total Facebook engagements on stories published that month. These numbers count all Facebook engagement on these sites’ links in January, including shares from publisher pages, copy-and-paste shares, and use of social sharing buttons on the websites themselves. Importantly, the numbers don’t include engagement on live or native videos.

To get full access to this data, and much more, sign up for a demo of NewsWhip Analytics today.

Download our ‘Three Years of Social Data’ report for the latest in what’s working for publishers on social media.

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